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Ways to Transport a Pet

There are three forms of air travel for pets: in-cabin, checked baggage, or cargo. They choice is dependant on animal type and size, pet courier, country and airline regulations, cost, comfort, health and safety, timing, and veterinarian recommendations. Here is a description on these three forms.


The most recommended pet transport method is to check the pet as cargo. It is the best flight option in terms of comfort and safety. You pet is placed in a designated area within the cargo area. It is pressurized and climate controlled, just like in the passenger cabin. The pets are completely undisturbed by people and teasing food smells. There is soft lighting to relax and comfort the pets. Usually, they become bored after the days excitement and fall asleep. Upon arrival, they are picked up separately from regular baggage and reunited with their owners.

Cargo allows your pet to fly separately, to any destination, without you having to be on that flight. Some airlines only allow pets to fly cargo, and it is necessary for larger pets. It is the most dangerous way to transport a pet because there is less temperature control. Many airlines do not allow cargo transport for pets during the summer because of the possibility of heat-related deaths. Some pets escape their crates in the cargo hold and become injured, so it is recommended to obtain pet insurance. 

For boarding, the pet is typically dropped off at the cargo desk. The location is often completely separate from the passenger terminal. Be sure to get the address and directions ahead of time. It’s unnecessary for the pet to be in the flight kennel any longer than it needs to be so place it inside at the very last minute. 

Upon the pet’s arrival at the destination airport, a retriever needs to claim the pet at the cargo desk. This usually takes at least one (1) hour after arrival. Again, obtain the address and directions ahead of time. The retriever then must clear customs and bring the pet to its new home. 


Some airlines allow small pets to travel in-cabin. A passenger or pet courier must accompany them, and they must remain in their kennel stowed under the passenger’s seat for the entire flight. Two pets may be allowed to share the flight kennel as long as they fit comfortably. Usually, the combined weight of the pet(s) and flight kennel must be less than 15 lbs (6.8 kg). Also, most airlines have a quota of pets they allow in-cabin per flight. These general regulations are all dependent upon the airline and the destination. In any situation, no international airline allows pets to have their own seat. 

There are pet-friendly airlines that better accommodate a pet transport. Before booking a flight, research these airlines and book with one that best suits the pet’s needs. Then, learn the airline’s policies so the proper preparations are made. Upon booking the flight, also reserve a space for the pet. No more than a month prior to departure, contact the airline to receive updates on any policy changes that may have occurred. The pet’s ticket is paid for upon arrival to the ticketing counter on the day of departure. 

Many countries do not allow pets to be imported in-cabin and require that the pets be imported and manifested as Cargo.

Checked Baggage

Many countries do not allow pets to be imported as checked baggage and require that the pets be imported and manifested as Cargo.

Ask for Help

When deciding between the three acceptable forms of air travel for your pet, always consider what’s best for your pet’s comfort, health, happiness and safety. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, feel free to learn more about the advantages of using VIP Sitters, the services we offer, or get started by sharing your travel plans with us so we can best assist you.